The bicycles would be part of San Francisco's effort to become the first major U.S. city with a government-backed bike-sharing program, something that has caught on in Europe.
For years, San Francisco has had a transit-first policy intended to discourage commuters from driving to work. That's resulted in fewer parking garages, higher parking fees and fines, and new bicycle lanes on scores of streets.
Now comes the next step -- making bikes plentiful and accessible, and available on the same up-front fee model as the city's car-sharing program.
San Francisco resident Jim Greer compares this idea with ZipCar and brings up some good points:
Most people use the bus to commute. So all the bikes would be needed at the same time and place. And if you live close enough to a bus stop for this to be convenient, you’re less likely to need a bike anyway.
Cars are expensive and take up a lot of space. Bikes are cheap and don’t take up a lot of space. So having an elaborate system to rent them and track who’s using one seems pointless.
But then he read about a similar bike rental system in Lyons, in which he learned that 22,000 bike rentals occur daily. "I think something like this could work in SF," Jim concludes.
Jim, by the way, is a member of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and a member of ZipCar. He also owns Kongregate, an online gaming portal with Web 2.0 community features. Think of it as a Flickr or YouTube for video games.